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War in Ukraine | Russia asks Ukraine to lay down arms in Mariupol

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(Kyiv) As it continued to shell the besieged city of Mariupol, Russia demanded that Ukrainians lay down their arms and raise white flags on Monday in return for safe passage out of the city.

Ukraine angrily rejected the offer, which came hours after officials said Russian forces bombed an art school that housed some 400 people.

While the struggle for control of this highly strategic city has remained intense, Western governments and analysts see the wider conflict turning into a war of attrition.

Russian Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev said he would allow two corridors out of Mariupol, either heading east into Russia or west into other parts of Ukraine.

Mariupol residents had until 5 a.m. Monday morning to respond to the offer. Russia did not say what action it would take if rejected.

But Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk said no.

“There can be no question of resignation, of laying down arms. We have already informed the Russian side about it,” she told Ukrainian media Pravda.

“I wrote, ‘Instead of wasting time with eight pages of letters, just open the hall.’ »

Mariupol Mayor Pyotr Andryushchenko also rejected the offer, saying in a Facebook post that he didn’t need to wait until morning to respond and cursing the Russians, according to the Interfax Ukraine news agency.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said authorities in Mariupol could face a military tribunal if they sided with what it called “bandits”, Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported.

Previous attempts to allow residents to evacuate Mariupol and other Ukrainian towns have failed or been only partially successful, with shelling continuing as civilians sought to flee.

Speaking in a video early Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said around 400 civilians had taken refuge at the art school when it was hit by a Russian bomb.

“They’re under the rubble and we don’t know how many of them survived,” he said. But we know we will definitely shoot down the pilot who dropped that bomb, like about 100 other mass murderers we’ve already shot down. »

War of attrition

The fall of Mariupol would allow Russian forces in southern and eastern Ukraine to unite. But Western military analysts say that even if the encircled city is taken, troops fighting one block at a time for control may be too exhausted to help secure Russian breakthroughs on other fronts.

Three weeks after the start of the invasion, Western governments and analysts see the conflict turning into a war of attrition. Bogged down Russian forces fire long-range missiles at towns and military bases, while Ukrainian forces carry out lightning strikes and seek to sever their supply lines.

The Ukrainians “welcomed the Russian soldiers not with a bouquet of flowers, President Zelensky told CNN, but with “weapons in their hands”.

Moscow cannot hope to govern the country, he added, given Ukrainian hostility to Russian forces.

Russian forces also shelled a theater in Mariupol on Wednesday where civilians had taken refuge. About 130 people were rescued, but another 1,300 could still be caught under the debris, local authorities said.

City officials and aid groups say food, water and electricity have run out in Mariupol and fighting has prevented aid convoys from entering. Communications are also cut off.

The city has been bombed for more than three weeks and has seen some of the worst horrors of the war. At least 2,300 people were killed, some of whom had to be buried in mass graves, according to city officials.

Mariupol and its strategic port on the Sea of ​​Azov were surrounded by the Russian military.

Surprisingly strong Ukrainian resistance dashed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s hopes of a quick victory after he ordered an invasion of his neighbor on February 24. In recent days, Russian forces have entered Mariupol, but taking the city could prove costly.

“Block-by-block fighting in Mariupol itself is costing the Russian military time, initiative and combat power,” the Washington-based Institute for the Study of Warfare argued during a conference. ‘a presentation.

The think tank concluded that Russia had failed in its initial campaign to quickly take the capital of Kyiv and other major cities, and that its invasion is stalling.

In major cities across Ukraine, hundreds of men, women and children have been killed in Russian attacks.

In Kyiv, emergency services reported four people killed by shelling near the center of the capital on Sunday. Loud explosions were heard as a mall and cars in a parking lot burst into flames, they reported.

In the northeast of the country, at least five civilians were killed in Kharkiv in the latest Russian shelling, according to local authorities.

Regional police in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, said a 9-year-old boy was among the victims.

Kharkiv has been besieged by Russian forces since the invasion began three weeks ago.

In a video address to Israel’s parliament on Sunday, President Zelensky urged lawmakers to take stronger action against Russia, accusing Mr Putin of trying to engineer a “final solution” against Ukraine. The term was used by Nazi Germany for its genocide of some 6 million Jews during World War II.

Mr. Zelensky, who is Jewish, also noted that a Russian missile hit Babi Yar—the spot in Kyiv where more than 30,000 Jews were massacred in 1941 by the Nazis. The place is now the main Holocaust memorial in Ukraine.

The UN has confirmed the death of 902 civilians during the war, but admits the true toll is likely much higher. It says nearly 3.4 million people have fled Ukraine.

Estimates of the death toll among Russians vary, but conservative tolls are in the thousands.

Some Russians have also fled their country amid a widespread crackdown on dissent. Russia has arrested thousands of anti-war protesters, muzzled independent media and cut off access to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

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